The Devil, She Said. – S.S. Bartlett

The dull ember of an Autumn’s evening finally gave way to the dark. The wind carried a chill in its whisper but the horsemen continued anyway, their steeds clapping heavy rhythms onto the cobblestone path.

“How much further?” The heftier one asked.

“Not much.” Replied the other. “Just ahead of those trees. That’s where she wanted us to meet her.”

“You know.” Said the man, whipping his burly arms upon the reins. “I do not trust her. There’s somethin about her.”

“Oh, come off it Blon. You’ve been at her throat since the day we met. If she’s got what we asked for, we pay her and head back to Hawbyrne. The Lord will be happy to hear that bastard is dead and we get paid. Simple as that.”

“Fine.” Blon grumbled. “But I’m keepin my sword at the ready. Just in case, Hawker.”

“Aye, aye. Do whadever you want.”

The trees were just ahead. They stood like eager children playing a pretend battle. Hawker remembered when he had wanted to be a soldier, plundering towns and winning sighing women. Now he hated it. Towns had nothing to plunder these days and the women hated him anyway. It was probably because of the warts. Hell. It was the warts.

The woman was there, just ahead. Her grey robes snapped in the wind. Even in the light of the torch she held Hawker could scarce see her face. Guess the men called her the Ghost for a reason. Blon jumped off his horse almost eagerly. He kept a hand on his sword. The idiot had really meant it. Hawker would talk to the oaf later.

“Do you have it?” Hawker dismounted. His feet crunched against the leaves. Heavens, he hated that sound.

The woman nodded. She unhooked a bag from her waist and tossed it to Blon who almost dropped the damn thing. He peered inside. Hawker could just make out the face of Derin Pillmar staring blankly back at Blon. The oaf blinked stupidly at the dead man’s face.

“Head’s there, Hawker.” He said finally.

“The amulet?” Hawker asked, turning back to the Ghost. She removed it from her neck. It was a beautiful thing, emeralds set in gold, encircling a single sapphire. Hawker’s master would have paid heavily for Derin Pillmar’s amulet, but he found killing his own brother and simply stealing the thing to be much cheaper.

“The gold.” The Ghost said. Her voice sent a shudder down the spine. Hawker complied anyway and removed a purse, tied messily to his clothes. He opened it, revealing the glow within. The woman would have to be happy with it. She could not make the same money elsewhere. If she sold the amulet, her people would find her. She was a ghost, aye, but even ghosts needed to hide from their own dark pasts at times. Hawker watched her waiting for affirmation of some sort, but then she slipped the amulet back onto her neck.

“It is not the amount promised.” She said calmly.

Hawker almost choked. “Surely –”he began to protest, but the woman cut him off.

“Tell your master it is not what was promised.” She began to walk away.

“Now listen here, little thin’.” Blon said grabbing her by the shoulder. It was the last he said.

Hawker blinked. How had he missed it? Out of nowhere a blade lay wrenched in Blon’s gut. The big man groaned before he slipped on the fallen leaves with a solid crunch. He did not stir. The man had been alive seconds ago. The Ghost turned to him. He could scarce see the woman’s face, but she was displeased. Hawker fumbled for his blade, cursing as he did. God, I’m going to die, I’m going to die. His fingers failed him. The Ghost grabbed him by the throat. He gasped for another breath of air. How was the damned woman so strong?

He felt the trickle of piss down his pants.

“I will not kill you.” She said through gritted teeth before finally letting him go. Hawker fell into the dry leaves, grasping at his neck.

The woman turned away from him walking into the darkness.

“Tell your master I have a buyer for the amulet.”

“Who?” Hawker managed to choke.

“The devil.” She said. “The devil.”

_____________________________________________________

This is my first attempt at a short story, ever. I have no idea what drove me to write it, but I did it anyway. Criticism is most welcome.